In a world where dating apps such as Tinder are claiming 75+ million active users, many millions of daily matches from billions of swipes, and a total of 50 billion or more matches since launching in 2012, it’s hard to imagine that there was ever an online dating service that people ever really relied upon before that. As many of us know, however, there was indeed quite a variety of online dating platforms before these smartphone-based apps came along.
But which one of them was first? Which was the platform that kicked it all off? In this blog post, we’re going to take a closer look at the very first online dating site, which many argue was Match.com.
Who Was First, Match or Kiss?
Match.com is often credited as being the first mainstream online dating site, but is it technically true? Actually, there was another platform launched just before Match namely Kiss.com, but unfortunately it doesn’t get much credit and information on the platform is scarce and largely missing. Kiss.com launched in 1994, and Match in 1995, but it’s Match and its founders Gary Kremen and Peng T. Ong that have retained the legacy as the true pioneers in online dating.
In fairness, Match as a company was launched in 1993, so you could argue that their platform going live in 1995 was just a circumstantial thing. Upon launch, Kremen and Ong wanted to ensure the most diverse group of users possible, and so drew in customers from all backgrounds and orientations to create a foundation group, usually by offering them free lifetime membership.
Match Launches and Gains Considerable Fanfare
After its launch, Match was featured in a profile done by Wired magazine, in which it was said that Match was “turning the heads of those in the human connections business.” It sounds like pretty tame stuff, but don’t forget this was the mid-1990s where mass-Internet connection and online dating were both relatively new for most people. Besides turning heads, other experts praised the concept of Match as a way to make this kind of professional-standard introduction service more affordable and accessible for lower-income individuals.
It wasn’t long before Match was breaking records, and it was named “Largest Dating Site in the World” in 2004 and that was after competitors had already started launching their own platforms, too. The platform went from strength to strength, bringing in almost 30 million unique visitors, three times what their closest competitors were achieving at the time. It wasn’t just the top dating site, but one of the top websites in general, ranking 37th in comScore’s 2004 rankings.
Where is Match Now?
Here’s a quick snapshot of Match’s offering right now:
- Number of countries served: 190
- Number of languages offered: 40
- Number of members: 5 million
- LGBT Friendly? Yes
- Gender Ratio Male/Female 49%/51%
- Free Trial? Yes, 7 Days
- Price $19.99-34.99/month depending on plan
Want to know more about Match.com? See our in-depth review of the dating site here.
Match Enters the App World
Match wasn’t just one of the pioneers in the dating website arena, but also when those platforms were transferring to the more contained world of the smartphone app. Smartphones as we know them were only about 3 years old — the iPhone that kicked it all off was released in 2007 — at the time that the Match app was launched on Android phones. It’s now still available on Google Play and the iOS App Store, of course.
One particular review of the Match app from King Nass was noted for its brevity and frankness: “Paid for it. Met lots of females. It is not fake. It is all real.” Even more powerful was when users were leaving reviews that detailed the fact that they were now in relationships as a result of having downloaded and used the app.
Where the Story Changes – Match Continues to Dominate and Grow
It’s typical at this stage in a tech company’s story that the concept or technology that they’ve used to get where they are has been widely replicated and the market is now saturated with competition, leaving our hero pioneer company in a desperate position, possibly about to be vacuumed up by one of the new and more innovative kids on the block. Here’s the thing, however, this is not the story when it comes to Match.
Thanks to a number of smart acquisitions and business moves by Match, they have managed to remain the dominant and most respected name in online dating even to this day and even in the face of massive competition from others. Their first major acquisition was in 2011 when the company snapped up the rising star company OkCupid for $50 million. OkCupid was running as a totally free site, and Match’s corporate parent IAC recognized the site as “the fastest-growing dating site in the advertising-based category.”
In an interesting twist of events later on, the founder of OkCupid, Sam Yagan, was taken on as CEO for Match, and Yagan currently serves as the Vice-Chairman for Match Group, owned by IAC. Match Group owns many other popular online dating brands, including Tinder. Acquisitions continued over the years, with Match getting their hands on Canadian dating site PlentyOfFish (POF) for $575 million in 2015, among others. In 2012, they launched the now seemingly ubiquitous mobile romance app Tinder, and followed that up with relationship-focused app Hinge in early 2013.
Match: Still Sitting Pretty at the Top
It’s unusual for an early pioneer to enjoy such a consistent run at the very top of their industry, but in the online dating world Match has managed to do just this. The platform now operates across 190 countries and claims that it is responsible for something like a third of all new relationships being formed where it operates.
It seems that by maintaining an affordable base price, remaining innovative, spotting and acquiring key competitors at early stages, and continuing to offer more ways to enjoy their wider philosophy of romantic connection through other more audience-targeted apps, Match has set a gold standard when it comes to creating a dominant force in the realm of online dating